Blind Ambitions

Building cover with what nature gives you.

Field & Stream Online Editors

The coyote was so close I could have touched him with my rifle muzzle. He turned his head once, giving me a look of indifference, and then jumped from the log and melted into the underbrush.

A better litmus test for a game blind is tough to imagine, and the fact that mine was made from only a few thorn branches is proof that they do not have to be expensive or require hours of construction. But to be effective, natural blinds must camouflage the human form, blend with existing cover, and permit the use of guns or bows without alerting game.

Into the Woods
It isn't necessary to totally screen yourself. A partially fallen tree trunk that forms an angle with the ground provides a ready framework; just put branches or other natural items underneath, but be sure to leave yourself holes to shoot through. Incorporating a tree trunk as a backrest will shield you from the eyesight of approaching animals. Fencelines also provide a buffer of cover that can be turned into a hasty hide. Where such framework is unavailable, drive sticks or tent poles into the ground and clip on leafy branches with wooden clothespins painted olive or flat black.

For deer, locate your blind near trail intersections and bedding areas, downwind of the line of approach. Position it so that you can take aim after the deer has passed you and is angling away. For fall turkeys, situate yourself close to where you scatter a flock. In the spring, build within 200 yards of a roost tree in a strut zone. Construct your blind around a tree, making sure a second is nearby, between you and the gobbler's probable direction of approach: Take aim when the turkey passes behind it. [NEXT "Sitting for Ducks"]

Sitting for Ducks
Puddle ducks shy away from willow clumps and tall reeds, so keep your blind low and within the perimeters of emergent vegetation, not in front. A folding stool is invaluable for sitting low and keeping dry. Digging a hole for your feet and the legs of the stool can lower your silhouette even further. Locate duck blinds to one side of the birds' approach-into the wind-and out of their direct line of sight. Overhead cover helps. For dawn hunting, put the paling horizon at the front. If you plan to be out all day, have the sun at your back to avoid detection.

Break cattails, reeds, and dry grasses by grasping clumps with gloved hands and pushing sharply downward, folding the stalks at their base. Yank them out and weave them into a framework of driftwood or some loose-weave netting. Along rocky shorelines, a few piled-up stones can serve as a blind as long as the color of your clothing matches.

Screen Test
A natural blind is tested twice: once when game approaches and again when you shoot. Remember the blind the coyote tested? An hour later a buck approached from the one direction in which I could not turn without detection. He was gone with a wave of his tail-a painful reminder that without the right blind placement you might as well be standing out in the open.

Making a Marsh Stool
To keep yourself from sinking too deeply in a marsh, modify your seat. You'll need a lightweight folding chair, a plywood square cut just larger than the chair's footprint, and 3 feet of strong elastic cord. 1. ** Drill two holes the diameter of the cord near one edge of the board. Place them slightly farther apart than the front chair legs. On the opposite edge, cut slots into the wood, slightly farther apart than the back legs. **2. Pass the end of the cord through one of the holes and tie an overhand knot so that it can't slip back through. Run the cord over the board and down through the opposite slot, then under the board and up through the other slot, and finally back across the top of the board. Pull the free end through the other drilled hole. Stretch the elastic for a tight fit and tie an overhand knot. **3. ** Release the cord from the slots. Put the stool on the board and draw the cord through the legs and back into the slots. Tension will keep the stool on the board (you can also grind grooves in the board to help secure the legs). The flat board will keep you afloat. -K.M.